By Maria Archibald, Sustainability Office
The Global Change & Sustainability Center (GCSC) Seminar Series returns on Tuesday, Aug. 31. The series features a different speaker on alternate Tuesdays of the fall semester. All seminars are free and will take place on Zoom.
Dr. Brenda Bowen, director of the GCSC and associate professor of Geology & Geophysics, will kick off the fall series with her talk on “Transdisciplinary Explorations of Sustainability in a Time of Change at the Bonneville Salt Flats.” She encourages everyone—students, staff, faculty, and community members—to tune in.
“I’ll be talking about work that I’ve been doing for eight or nine years, really focused on the Bonneville Salt Flats and the changes that are currently happening in this landscape,” Bowen says. “We’ve been studying how this environment is changing from a biophysical standpoint—so looking at the sediments in the groundwater and environmental fluxes of how the landscape is changing—but then also have been working really closely with social scientists, and communication scholars, and engineers, and artists, and stakeholders from a huge range of different perspectives to try to do science that will help aid in data-driven decision making.”
While Bowen specializes in geology, she explains that the interdisciplinary and social science elements of her work are just as essential. “We got to advance the work on the science, and across the sciences, but then also really bridged into these other areas around how perceptions of environmental change are framed based on your position in the stakeholder ecosystem,” Bowen says. “Who talks to who, and who’s at the table, and how [are] decisions made about land management, and resource use, and extraction, and mitigation, and restoration? Who’s making those decisions?”
Interdisciplinary sustainability research like Bowen’s will reappear throughout this semester’s GCSC seminars, which feature faculty members from all different disciplines across the University of Utah campus, ranging from law to philosophy to engineering. The fall series takes on questions such as, “How do we bridge across these disciplinary silos that are so entrenched in academia?” Bowen explains. “How do we see this from all…different disciplinary lenses and approaches?”
Dr. Stacy Harwood, professor and chair in the Department of City & Metropolitan Planning, will give the second seminar on “Everyday Racism in Integrated Spaces,” which examines the experiences of students of color at the University of Utah, a predominantly white institution. “We talk a lot about campus as a living lab,” says Bowen. “But it’s not just the physical spaces where we do that—it can be in our social spaces, too.”
Dr. Carlos Santana, professor of Philosophy, will wrap up September with a discussion of the Anthropocene and possibilities for collaboration between natural sciences, social sciences, and the humanities in a new geologic era.
In October and November Dr. Heather Tanana, research assistant professor in the College of Law, will discuss the intersection of Indigenous resource needs, climate change, and environmental policies; Dr. Taylor Sparks, professor of Materials Science and Engineering, will discuss the materials needed to achieve a just energy transition; and Dr. Lynne Zummo, professor of Educational Psychology and curator of learning sciences at the Natural History Museum of Utah, will explore the cognitive process related to learning and making decisions about climate change.
Bowen encourages students, staff, faculty, and the broader community to tune in at no cost for this semester’s bi-weekly seminars. Interested graduate students can still add the online section of the one-credit GCSC Seminar course, which can be found under SUST 6800-002 in the course catalog.